Powerful, pacey and skillful. Those are the words being used to describe English League Championship sensation Djed Spence. The right-back has already gained attention from big clubs like Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan. His performances have even caught the eye of the Jamaica Football Federation, who have openly expressed their desire to bring the 21-year-old into the Reggae Boyz program.
When Spence scored the fourth and final goal against Premier League side Leicester City in their FA Cup tie a few weeks ago, the effort capped off another amazing performance from the English-born defender and this further increased the interest from other teams and admirers than what he has been used to recently. His forays up and down the right flank for Nottingham Forest, helping to keep the squad in the running for a play-off berth, has seen him become somewhat of a folk hero at West Bridgford.
The right-back’s performances have certainly confirmed interest from England’s senior men’s camp, but Gareth Southgate has remained quiet on the prospect of including the defender into his set up at this early stage. With England’s stance against capping players eligible for dual-citizenship in order to prevent them from playing for other nations, the door is open for a Reggae Boyz call up. In addition to that, England’s right back spot seems well covered and will be for quite some time. The position is possibly England’s strongest and deepest area on the pitch, with players such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Reece James all fighting for a starting position.
Born to Jamaican parents, Spence is said to be on the JFF’s radar for over a year now. The fight for his cap should be easy enough,however they will need to market the possibility of representing the country to the player. On the other hand, though the prospect of holding down even a bench position in the English squad seems difficult, being cap-tied to a country who has failed to qualify for a World Cup in twenty-four years and has experienced major economical and developmental hindrances to put together a competitive team could be a waste.
Jamaica’s right-back position is slightly less stacked than England’s, with Javain “Trigga” Brown his only competition going into the next World Cup qualification cycle. For the better part of ten years, defender Alvas Powell has been the one to maintain his starting position in that area, however, with a series of recent lackluster performances, the 27-year-old has fallen out of favor with the Reggae Boyz coaching staff.
The hallmark of many classic Jamaican teams have possessed defenders that became notable for their attacking prowess and powerful overlapping runs. The likes of Ricardo “Bibi” Gardener, Stephen “Shorty” Malcom and Kemar “Taxi” Lawrence have all engrained their names in Jamaican football history and spoiled Reggae Boyz fans into becoming accustomed to pacey and direct wing backs. Djed Spence could write his name amongst the legends on this list.
Spence’s introduction could prove to be pivotal, not just as a key component to the defense but as part of a crucial rebuilding process following another failed World Cup qualifying campaign.
The focus of the team should be to implement players in two main areas, central defensive midfield and right-back. By cementing those two spots with capable players, the team’s quality will improve drastically, given that Paul Hall, or whoever takes charge in the near future, organizes the squad in a way where they can express themselves.
Undoubtedly, Jamaica has bigger issues than securing Djed Spence as a Jamaican international. However, the acquisition of one of England’s most promising defenders would be a signal of intent from the football federation that they are aiming to put measures in place to bounce back from recent disappointments.